Below you’ll find the list of books published this year that I most enjoyed.
Heartwood readers know that my main reading interest is older international literary fiction, but I also read new releases, as well as some non-fiction and poetry. Additionally, the old and the new come together when foreign books that were published years ago finally get their first (or a new) English translation.
What I most admire about the books below is what makes them so difficult to write about – their dexterous and creative way with words; their narrative idiosyncrasies, interiority, and perspicacity; the frequent interweaving of other cultural material (especially literature and art); a sense of place uniquely realized and expressed. These books offer fascinating, richly satisfying pleasures to the reader, but consternation to the list-maker who wishes to convey the essence of these reading experiences.
So rather than write my own capsule summaries, I’m simply listing the titles. But you can read summaries or brief reviews in the library catalog by clicking on the titles. For most of the books I’ve also linked to longer reviews from a variety of sources, and for two of them I’ve linked to reviews I did manage to write earlier this year.
I liked most everything I read that was published this year – a rare and happy situation –but these were the cream of the crop. If you like good writing I think you’ll find something here to enjoy.
Harlequin’s Millions (orig. pub. 1981)
by Bohumil Hrabal
trans. Stacey Knecht
Archipelago Books 312 pgs.
read more: Tweed’s, WaPo, Words without Borders
see also: Heartwood on Hrabal’s I Served the King of England
The Professor and the Siren (orig. pub. 1986)
by Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
trans. Stephen Twilley
New York Review Books 69 pgs.
read more: Complete Review, Paris Review
see also: Heartwood review of Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard
Unclassifiable Comic Book / Fiction / Non-Fiction Hybrid
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires (orig. pub. 1975)
by Julio Cortázar
trans. David Kurnick
Semiotext(e) 87 pgs.
read more: Complete Review, MIT Press, Three Percent
see also: Heartwood review of Cortázar’s Hopscotch
A Place in the Country: On Gottfried Keller, Johann Peter Hebel, Robert Walser, and Others (orig. pub. 1998)
by W.G. Sebald
trans. Jo Catling
Random House 208 pgs.
read more: NY Times, The Spectator, LA Review of Books, Slate
Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty
by Vikram Chandra
Graywolf Press 236 pgs.
read more: NY Times, New Republic, Complete Review